Zhao Guilan, 82, is making cloth toy tigers during the Spring Festival of the Year of the Tiger in Xibeichang Village, east China’s Shandong Province. Inspired by her mother, she has been in love with the traditional craft since childhood.
With her unique skills in making tigers by hand, Zhao, together with her husband, raised three children, using the money to start a family. Today Zhao is still pursuing her handicraft into her 80s.
Over the years, Zhao has always insisted on selling her sewn works at local markets. With changes in aesthetic tastes, she is also making changes to her handicrafts. “Today’s cloth is more colorful. Both the color and the shape of the tiger are much better than those in the past,” Zhao said.
In the local area, if a baby is born, grandparents will give the baby a toy tiger as a blessing. All toy tigers made by families in the village look brave and cute, despite slight differences.
The toy tigers made by Zhao have become more well crafted with experience, and her works have won awards in various competitions. In 2020, she was recognized as the inheritor of county-level intangible cultural heritage.
For Zhao, making toy tigers from cloth is not just a way to make a living, but a way to carry on local culture. Zhao said she hopes everyone can cherish the intangible cultural heritage of cloth toy tigers.